A breastfeeding poncho is a fabric cover that a mother uses to cover her nursing child. Like a regular poncho, a breastfeeding poncho covers both a woman's front and back, helping her maintain her modesty while nursing in both public and private locations. It consists of a circular or rectangular piece of cloth with a hole cut in the middle. The wearer's head goes in the hole, and the cloth is worn over the shoulders and drapes over the entire midsection.
Other popular nursing covers, such as nursing capes, resemble an apron and are constructed to conceal only a woman's front side. Women who do not always use nursing tops and notice their back showing while nursing might prefer a breastfeeding poncho to a cape- or apron-style cover. A poncho also provides both the mother and baby more protection from the elements. Children might have more difficulty lifting a nursing poncho, preventing unwanted exposure of the mother.
When a mother wants to use a nursing poncho, she slips it over her head and uses it to cover both herself and her infant. She then nurses her infant under the poncho. In a busy public place, her nursing might go unnoticed because of the lack of exposure.
Breastfeeding ponchos can be homemade or purchased from a retailer. Homemade nursing ponchos cost only as much some fabric and thread. The fabric typically is lightweight to allow some airflow to the child while the child is under the poncho. Some women might include a piece of plastic boning in the front collar of the poncho to flare the fabric out and allow the mother to see the baby while nursing. A breastfeeding poncho might also include arm holes in the sides so the mother's arms do not have to be completely covered.
Many jurisdictions provide legal protections to women who breastfeed in public. Such laws typically either state that breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure or that breastfeeding is allowed in public. Breastfeeding covers are not required; their use is a matter of personal preference or out of consideration to those who might feel uncomfortable around nursing mothers. Women in many countries would never use a breastfeeding poncho or other cover, because nursing in public is considered normal and unoffensive.